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INSIGHTS

The Lower You Go, the More They Know

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The processing of information in a tradition-bound workplace tends to be exclusionary—that is, controlled by senior managers who use it to make decisions. This method may have worked when upper level leaders could thoughtfully assess the data and provide timely direction, but in today’s fast-paced culture this style of leadership is outmoded.

Studies also indicate that the traditional top-down strategy is an ineffective way to attract top-notch employees. It is now time to deploy a new methodology that taps into the natural skills and latent abilities that exist within the workforce.

This foundational premise is supported by an American Management Association survey of 800 executives who reported that “the emphasis over the past years has been on high-tech skills like math and science, but what’s missing is the ability to collaborate and make key decisions at lower levels.”

When the experience and expertise housed in the hearts and minds of your employees can be brought to bear on a problem quickly, senior management will soon realize that it does not matter who rectifies the situation as long as the issue is resolved.

Change the Way You Think About Leaders

Leadership development programs tend to concentrate on training upper and mid-level managers and seldom fully engage the workforce. Such a myopic strategy may be cost effective, but it rarely results in the systemic delegation of authority.Today’s leaders are self-taught. They learn by doing, observing what works and what doesn’t, and filling their toolkit as they move from job to job. Many lower level employees know how to lead; they just need the opportunity show what they know.

This bold assertion was recently confirmed by Fortune senior writer Ellen McGirt in her feature, “Grit Is the New MBA,” (February 1, 2018) where she reported, “This electrified employment market is placing fresh value on life experience and personal qualities like fortitude, adaptability, and creative problem solving.”

In a customer-centric workplace, looking ahead, initiating change, taking action, solving problems, overcoming adversity, and correcting mistakes when and where they occur are what lower level leaders do best.

Therefore, anyone who performs these functions is filling a leadership role. Who takes charge and what title they hold is not as important as having leaders strategically placed throughout the organization to ensure that the right things are getting to the right place at the right time in the right condition.

Attracting Lower Level Leaders

Employees with the desire and ability to lead are hard to find. With that in mind, here are seven ways to establish the reputation it will take to attract and retain lower level leaders.1) During the interview, communicate the right message and make sure it is sincere. Convey that the candidates will be esteemed for who they are, for their unique skills, and for the value they add to the organization.

2) During the first three weeks on the job, make sure the new hires feel welcome. Reconfirm three points: the reason they were hired, what you expect of them, and how their contributions will be measured.

3) Assign peer coaches to guide new employees. What makes new hires feel welcome is how their peers treat them. Veterans have an important part to play in bringing rookies up to speed and helping them to fit in fast and find job satisfaction quickly.

4) Ensure that someone at the executive level is available to answer questions and remove positional barriers. This lets the new hires know that the chain of command is working and that someone with the authority to overcome adversity is easy to contact.

5) Expect senior managers to act in a collaborative manner. If new hires do not see teamwork modeled from above, there is no inspiration for them to make the effort to cooperate with people they don’t know very well and have no reason to trust.

6) Address poor performance and inappropriate behavior in a timely manner. Honest evaluations contribute to the high morale of lower level leaders. Feedback clears up confusion and helps reassure new employees that they are on the right track.

7) Encourage new hires to voice concerns, challenge ambiguities, and report inconsistencies without fear of retribution. These behaviors establish the organization as a place where the only thing that will be recorded or remembered is success.

Regardless of how leadership is defined or what the role of a leader might be, the achievement of purpose should be the ultimate objective. Which theory or principle gets applied when a person exercises leadership is less significant than that person’s ability to get their co-workers moving in the right direction in a timely manner.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tom Jones has studied organizations and the people they employ long enough to have a keen sense of what it takes for both to prosper. He writes and speaks about those leadership challenges and management perplexities that ultimately determine the success or failure of today’s customer-sensitive workplace.

In his new book, Doers: The Vital Few Who Get Things Done , Tom shows employers how to create a workplace where doers flourish. He also shows doers how to seek out an organization where their eagerness to succeed is recognized and rewarded.

Tom holds a doctoral degree in organization and leadership from the University of San Francisco. He has lectured at six universities and currently teaches Principles of Management for the College of Business at California State University, Monterey Bay.

 

Attracting Doers to Your Organization

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Companies that rely solely on the CEO to navigate the uncharted waters of global competition are floundering. The validity of this bold assertion is supported by three bestselling business books based on the findings of a Stanford University research team headed by professor and author Jim Collins:

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap compared 1,400 companies once listed on the Fortune 500 to find only 11 that met the criteria necessary to qualify as “great.” How the Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In asked, Amid the desolate landscape of fallen great companies, can decline be detected early and avoided? How can companies reverse course? In Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck; Why Some Thrive Despite Them All, Collins examined a nine-year study that analyzed 20,400 companies and identified only seven that have what it takes to flourish in tumultuous times.

These revealing discoveries provide ample evidence it is time to consider a new way of getting results that fully utilizes what doers bring to the workplace. Positioning them as problem solvers, peer coaches, and change agents will ensure a prosperous future for the organization savvy enough to do so.

Doers are the driving force for innovative ideas, those disruptive game-changers envied and feared by competitors. They supply the initiative for new directions and the positive energy behind better outcomes. When provided with unfettered opportunities, doers will deliver amazing things.

The survivability of a competitive enterprise hinges upon its ability to harness the power of doers. Deployed strategically, doers can halt decline and restore prosperity.

Doers hold the key to sustainable success in today’s workplace. Regrettably, however, these highly desirable people are in short supply and are also hard to recognize. As you sort through the pile of applicants for your next job opening, keep an eye out for prospects who are known to:

  • Reach across departmental boundaries to build coalitions and create alliances.
  • Motivate others by their propensity to enjoy what they do and have fun doing it.
  • Operate independently with little direction and limited supervision.
  • Accept difficult assignments that others cannot or will not do.
  • Seek opportunities to grow personally and develop professionally.

Those charged with executing the corporate vision need to hear the truth from those directly involved in the production of goods and services. Doers are in the best position to recognize performance, productivity, and process problems and to recommend pragmatic solutions to those with the authority to take corrective action.

Hiring Doers Requires Special Effort

Using traditional interview panels whereby those candidates who make the best impression get hired is not likely to bring many doers to the surface.LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, author of The Alliance, believes employers put too much weight on interviews and too little weight on references. “References actually tell you how people work, what their work ethic is. That is a critical piece of data that cannot be put aside or done casually.”

In Work Rules, a new book disclosing Google’s hiring successes, Laszlo Bock promotes a peer-guided selection process that digs deeper into behavioral patterns, work history, personal accomplishments, and growth potential to find the most suitable candidates.

Finding good people and keeping them requires that you are known in their network as a place where doers flourish—they spread the word to other doers. Enduring workplace attractions are opportunities to grow in their profession, to make a noticeable difference that matters, and to accomplish something within your company that they could not achieve where they are.

Doers seek assurance that honesty counts and that they can speak truth to authority without fear of retribution. They trust a mistake can be corrected without the fear it will be held against them. Bringing doers on board may sound positive, but there are costs attached that the organization must take into account. Each of these tendencies has the potential to be problematic:

  • Doers confront authority, question ambiguity, and expose inconsistency. They challenge directives whenever they believe their way is better. Such behavior may seem irreverent and disrespectful until you consider the benefit of receiving honest feedback from those fully vested in the outcome.
  • Doers risk losing personal influence and peer support when promoted. Moving them up the career ladder may jeopardize the respect, admiration, and cooperation they receive from coworkers. Creating reward systems for doers based on their accomplishments rather than on their position can minimize the negative effects of advancement.
  • Doers may seek opportunities elsewhere when dissatisfied with the lack of enjoyable assignments. This is the most critical factor in keeping doers from jumping ship. Doers network to stay current on job openings. Lacking the potential for personal growth and professional development, doers are known to seek such opportunities elsewhere.

Be prepared; attracting doers is not going to be easy. It is a job seeker’s market. The best candidates will check out your track record before they agree to interview. The challenge is to establish a reputation as a place where they are eager to come and have reason to stay. Publicly recognizing the value of what doers have to offer will increase the prospects for bringing in high-impact talent.

Tom Jones.png
ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tom Jones has studied organizations and the people they employ long enough to have a keen sense of what it takes for both to prosper. He writes and speaks about those leadership challenges and management perplexities that ultimately determine the success or failure of today’s customer-sensitive workplace.

In his new book, Doers: The Vital Few Who Get Things Done , Tom shows employers how to create a workplace where doers flourish. He also shows doers how to seek out an organization where their eagerness to succeed is recognized and rewarded.

Tom holds a doctoral degree in organization and leadership from the University of San Francisco. He has lectured at six universities and currently teaches Principles of Management for the College of Business at California State University, Monterey Bay.

 

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